A New Class

After the first blog post “A Word of Advice” and watching twitter for all of the responses for One Day for Design I have been thinking quite a lot about what can be done to better equip recent or soon-to-be design grads. During OD4D @kimberlyreed posed a really great question: “What are design students lacking when they join the design community? Can we talk education?”

I, as well as several other people within the twittersphere responded with ideas of something equivalent to real-world experience that would result in a better placed sense of self-confidence and therefore make them more valuable to any potential design firm.

In college, towards the end of our experience we had a class on the business of art. It was a low attended class but provided some valuable insight for people who wanted to make a living selling making and selling their art. Where was the business class for designers? Where are they now? Surely some curriculums must have grown a bit in order to incorporate a class that offers real-world experience in dealing with clients, potential employers, setting boundaries, issues such as spec work, estimating a project, contracts, proposals, etc. From what I can tell, no. There are none.

As a side note, I did, however, have a class in college where we all had specific on-campus clients who needed real work. However, all deals were negotiated prior, which left the student with a first meeting and then the work. It was a good basis for what comes next. I’ve been thinking of constructing a workshop set up in a similar way, only with a more in-depth self-sufficient construct.

The workshop would have to be small. Perhaps 10 people or less. The itinerary would look like this:

Item 1: Review with class an ideal way to start a project with a hypothetical case. Consider the following scenario. A client contacts you via your website asking how much a logo would cost. It is imperative to not give any rates out until you have further details about a project. A good way to respond could be an email response in which the student inquires about further details such as the type of industry the potential client is in, some of the ways in which the logo might be used, what the business is all about (mission statement), where they are located, what type of logo they had in mind, what any important dates/deadlines the client might have etc. Getting some of this information up front will do one of two things: 1. separate real inquiries vs. wastes of time; and 2. get vital information that will help you craft a more valuable and better logo. The potential client follows up  with answers to all of the questions. The next step would be to meet or talk over the phone, discussing the project a bit more so you can hear it directly from them and ask questions.

With all of the newfound knowledge, the student can go home and craft an estimate and contract. (items which will be gone over in a future item/class). They would then submit this for client approval. There could potentially be some back and forth to resolve issues for both parties.

The estimate and contract are approved. Student begins work on project. Student follows up with design options. The client chooses an option but asks for some revisions. The student makes the revisions. The final is submitted to the client and wins approval. Upon that approval, the student is to send an invoice prior to turning over logo files to client.

Item 2: Go over what a contract is, and necessary items to have in it to protect both you and your client. “Fuck You. Pay Me” should be mandatory watching. Go over how to craft an estimate and a basic billing rate that takes into account basic design time, revision time, client communication (email, phone calls, meetings) and final production as well as many other possibilities such as utilities, equipment, insurance, etc. Review what the current going-rates are within the industry and where to find them.

Item 3: Each student gets a different case/client, which will be the teacher acting out different types of clients. Each student would get one printed email from an “interested client.” Depending upon how the subsequent string of interactions proceed, there could be issues with communication, deadline shifts, poor work that needs to be redone, etc.  I thought about the possibility of the teacher calling the students on off hours to even more closely align this with real life. But more likely than not, it would be emails. Work would be done outside class. Class time would be to ask questions on how to deal with their specific brand of client.
It should be encouraged that they meet on their own for critiques as in the real world (and in many professional jobs) critiques are not performed. Additionally, this sets up the stage for creating a community of like-minded people who create things and feed off of each others energy to succeed.

This idea, is fairly general at this stage and even as I type this, I continue to imagine additional elements that would be covered and discussed as well as practical outcomes for such a class.

It seems like this class should not only be taught, it should be mandatory. Are there any classes out there that do something like this?